Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Grin [Spindizzy, 1971] B+
  • All Out [Spindizzy, 1972] A-
  • Gone Crazy [A&M, 1973] B-
  • The Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren [Epic, 1976] A-
  • The Very Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren [Spindizzy/Epic Associated/Legacy, 1999] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Grin [Spindizzy, 1971]
In which Crazy Horse phenom Nils Lofgren comes up with his own little group on producer David Briggs's own little Epic subsidiary. Choruses of children mix with gospel-cum-Robert-Plant high counterpoint; future folk tunes like "Everybody's Missing the Sun" and "If I Were a Song" vie for the lad's soul with soulful ravers like "Direction" and "18 Faced Lover." Watch him. B+

All Out [Spindizzy, 1972]
This record speaks to my peculiar sensibility. It even includes a song that begins in a house in the country and includes the line: "Life has been kinda easy on me." Nils Lofgren is everything I think a rock and roller should be--pugnacious, explosive, cheerful, loving. But I'm not sure my taste is any more universal than someone else's for, I don't know, some minor song poet, David Blue, say, or George Gerdes. A-

Gone Crazy [A&M, 1973]
Didn't "Beggar's Day" sound better on Crazy Horse, and haven't we heard those girl-world boy-toy rhymes before? You bet. This is where Nils starts to repeat himself. Not only does the lack of a moderately interesting new lyric close off a source of pleasure, it also leaves Lofgren with nothing to sing about. Let's hope this was a rush job for his new label and warn him not to rush the next. B-

The Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren [Epic, 1976]
In which CBS replaces three terrific flawed albums with a single very nice unflawed one. In other words, this does avoid clinkers, but it also avoids Nils the Eloquent Weirdo ("Slippery Fingers," "All Out") in favor of Nils the Accomplished Simp ("Like Rain," "We All Sing Together"). A-

The Very Best of Grin Featuring Nils Lofgren [Spindizzy/Epic Associated/Legacy, 1999]
Lofgren is an even better argument than Buddy Holly himself for the historically dubious proposition that rock and roll is the proper province of inspired striplings, because he didn't die. Instead he turned pro, grinding out dozens of overstated, unfulfilled albums before and after Bruce Springsteen provided a use for an enthusiasm that got pretty grotesque as his spontaneity vanished with his chronological youth. Consisting entirely of material selected from or contemporary with the three albums he released before he was 22, these 19 songs are dazzling evidence of the grace and spritz with which the kid fused teen spirit and prodigious virtuosity--an evolved rock and roll that articulates the romantic lyricism left implicit by Holly. Nothing wrong with implication. But you can feel it rising up in such unnecessarily obscure titles as "Slippery Fingers" and "Everybody's Missin' the Sun." A